Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Supreme happenings

Well, obviously, one of the two the biggest things that happened while I was away from the helm here was the surprise announcement that the first Supreme Court retirement of Bush's reign would be not Rehnquist (perhaps keeping busy keeps him going, as Specter speculated) but continual swing-voter Sandra Day O'Connor. Medley summarized the grim news here and Ampersand thinks that liberals have already lost the battle for a reasonable candidate. Short-term solace can be taken in the fact that the pro-choice decisions had an edge of 6-3, not 5-4, so this doesn't spell the immediate death of those precedents. But there are plenty of hot issues on which the new judge will be a decisive vote (the recent Ten Commandments decision, for example), so the battle will be fierce.

A SCOTUSblog offshoot takes a look at 5-4 decisions including O'Connor where a more conservative replacement might lead the court toward re-examining precedent, including cases around affirmative action, religious schooling, campaign finance, and other issues.

Even before I left a week ago, folks were circulating short-lists of replacements (for Rehnquist, they thought) -- the analysis will now go into overdrive. One pretty thorough summary is over at Alas, where the record of each prospect on a variety of liberal issues is examined and summarized handily.

In related thoughts, a dailyKos post tracks some recent history of Presidents actually asking Judicial Committee heads for advice in selecting nominees. I noted in the Sunday NYTimes that Specter had suggested to Bush that he meet with a group of four leaders (majority and minority leaders from each of the whole Senate and from the Judiciary Committee) and that Bush had scheduled just such an appointment. I hope that a sane nominee arises from such consultations -- Specter appears to prefer not to suggest additional names, but maybe there's space for considering such, especially with another judicial pick on the not-too-distant horizon.

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